Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Valentine's Day: Test Kitchen 1.0

Triple Layer Red Velvet Cake and Cheesecake topped with Cream Cheese Buttercream Roses

This is a Test Kitchen Cake...I have no idea what I'm doing.  But let's back up...

I was out of the kitchen most of this past week.  My life partner had surgery to repair his right ankle from a bike spill he took this past summer.  He's home now and life is grand...but it was such a relief to be back in the kitchen with my mixer, the ingredients, baking pans, parchment paper, etc.

Not sure in which direction to go, I took inspiration from the calendar.  It's just a month until Valentine's Day!  I'm hoping to pick up for a few special orders as well as bake a special cake for my dude.

Thinking in terms of red and white, it was a cinch to go with a Red Velvet inspired creation - but I wanted to jazz it up.  I know there are many examples online and in restaurants that offer cheesecake and Red Velvet together.  Certainly I could recreate this, right?  I mean, when I texted our oldest daughter, she was all like..."sounds pizazzy."  She's sassy, but ok.  I'll take that.

At heart, there is a part of me that's lazy.  If I was serving cheesecake, I'd go through all the traditional steps of a water bath, extended baking time, leaving the oven door open for cooling, etc.  But I simply wasn't in the mood for all those steps.  I looked for a shortcut and I think I found it.

Lisa from the Wine & Glue blog posted a lovely recipe for what she calls, Cake Batter Cheesecake. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but close.  After some minor adaptations, I baked what I call a Cream Cheese Cake.  It has the consistency of cheesecake without all the ingredients and machinations necessary for amazing, traditional cheesecake.  The taste is spot on.

Once the cheesecake component was cooling, I baked the 9" Red Velvet rounds.  They needed time to cool as well.  This would be an ideal cake to bake one day and construct the next.  I felt like I was in the kitchen all day...oh wait...that's not a bad thing!

As much as I'd love to simply use non-stick spray on the cake rounds,
taking time to cut parchment paper really makes a difference.
The cream cheese cake is not burned; the sugar in the milk caramelized.

Since this is the Test Kitchen, I wasn't sure how to build.  Most bakers don't add buttercream between the layers of red velvet and cream cheese - so I didn't either.  The layers seemed to hold together nicely using the moisture of the cheesecake.  Inverting the cheesecake onto the bottom layer seemed the most natural thing to do - instead of introducing a cake lifter into the mix.

At this point, I'm reminding myself that I need a round spring-form pan.  And maybe even a heart-shaped spring-form pan.  Trimming the cheesecake down from square to round was humbug (but doable) and did leave a wake of crumbs to hide in the crumb coat.  At the same time, I don't think it mattered one bit to the final cake outcome.

A very thin layer of cream cheese frosting was the crumb coat on this cake.  I think next time, I'll make it easy on myself and use the same frosting on the crumb coat as the finished design.  This time I made a special cream cheese frosting, but don't believe that's really necessary.

After the crumb-coat was set, I piped on a series of white roses.  The frosting is primarily buttercream.  The ratio was 80% butter and 20% cream cheese.  I still get the stiffness and movability of the butter along with the cream cheese flavor bump.  Some days it seems more like science and art come together for taste and function.  I liked the way things turned out today.

If we eat with our eyes...I love the way this cake looked.

It's not often that I hesitate slicing a cake, but I was with this one.  I haven't piped roses in quite a while and I have to go way back to remember the last time I used white buttercream roses.  This look is simple and lovely and maybe in the right context, a bit on the elegant side.

But, cake has a shelf life and that is that.  I sliced it, took a few snapshots, then packed it up to take to friends.

We shared with our sweet friends from church, a couple friends at Starbucks, and will deliver a small slice to the friendly lady at the produce market downstairs.  Before I got sober, I wasn't very good at sharing or thinking of others.  But, today I get to do that as the result of working the steps and listening to people I respect and love.

Today is filled with gratitude for my kitchen and the time to bake. 

I am grateful to our kids who continue to love and tolerate me and my dearest friends who embrace me no matter what. 

Mostly, I'm grateful for modern medicine that makes it possible for my life partner to receive treatment so we can enjoy many more adventures.

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